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Pope seeks forgiveness for abuse and cover-up by Church hierarchy

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Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: PA

Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: PA

Pope Francis attends the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin, as part of his visit to Ireland. Photo: PA

Pope Francis has asked for forgiveness for the treatment of single mothers and children who were exploited and abused by the Catholic Church in Ireland.

In an unprecedented move, the Pope made a statement at the beginning of the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park, in which he admitted that the hierarchy had "kept quiet" about abuse and "did not take charge" of painful situations.

"We ask forgiveness for the abuses in Ireland - abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuses perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility within the Church," he said.

Significantly, he acknowledged not just the problem of sexual abuse in the Church but also referenced events that happened in mother and baby homes, Magdalene Laundries and industrial schools.

At the close of his visit to Ireland, Pope Francis acknowledged that the scandals of recent years "have tested the traditionally strong faith of the Irish people".

Speaking to the Irish hierarchy at a private meeting at the Papal nunciature in Dublin, before flying back to Rome, the Pontiff said a recurrent theme of his visit was the Church's need to acknowledge and remedy with honesty and courage past failures in the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

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People wave to Pope Francis in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Doug O'Connor

People wave to Pope Francis in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Doug O'Connor

People wave to Pope Francis in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Doug O'Connor

He paid tribute to the Irish bishops' efforts to move forward with the help of the National Board for Safeguarding through "a stringent set of norms aimed at ensuring the safety of the young person".

Admitting that the Church in recent years had had its eyes opened to the gravity and extent of sexual abuse, the 81-year-old said the honesty and integrity with which the Church in Ireland had chosen to confront this "painful chapter of her history could offer an example and a warning to society as a whole".

At the beginning of the Mass, which was attended by a crowd of around 200,000, the Pope asked for forgiveness for those members of the hierarchy who "did not take charge of these painful situations".

In unscripted prayers beseeching forgiveness, prompted by his meeting with eight survivors of clerical abuse on Saturday, the Pope asked for pardon for all the abuses committed in various types of institutions run by male or female religious and by others Church members.

In a reference to the Magdalene Laundries and residential institutions, he begged forgiveness for those cases of exploitation through manual work to which so many were subjected.

He also asked for forgiveness for the times when many single mothers were told that to seek their children, who had been taken from them, was a mortal sin and whose sons and daughters were told the same.

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"Survivors of abuse of power, conscience and sexuality, picking up on what they have told me, I would like to put these crimes before the mercy of the Lord and ask forgiveness for them," he prayed.

"We ask forgiveness for the times in the Church when we did not show survivors of whatever kind of abuse compassion. The seeking of justice needs concrete actions," he said.

In his homily, the Pope spoke about the need to protect the rights of the unborn, the elderly and to welcome migrants.

In his words of welcome at the start of the Mass, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said the Church in Ireland had gone through "challenging times".

He continued: "People have been wounded in the depth of their being by Church people.

"People's faith has been challenged and the Church of Jesus Christ has been wounded."

He recalled the times when people had called for the removal of the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park.

Amid torrential downpours, Dr Martin said they were now gathered around the cross "in the hope of a spring for the Irish Church", a spring that would not wish to cover up the "harshness of dark days".


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